Jenny frequently hears the statement, 'I didn't know you can't see very well.' This would probably be because she doesn't fit the typical stereotype of someone who wears sunglasses all the time, has a white cane (though this is coming) or a seeing eye dog. She doesn't hold her books right up to her nose and was able to teach successfully.
But Jenny has been visually impaired since being a child. Her 'vision' story begins at her birth when she was diagnosed as having her craniofacial syndrome, Crouzon syndrome. Her eyes were bulgy and the pediatrician initially thought she was blind. She wasn't, which was a blessing. Jenny wore glasses as a toddler for short-sightedness.
At the age of nine, in 1977, Jenny underwent pioneering craniofacial surgery where she had her eye sockets moved forward and blocks of hip and rib were used to stabilise the area, and to build up the eyebrow and under the eye. There were complications with the left eye remaining bulgier than it should have been. The medical notes state that a scan showed pressure on that eye, either from a blood clot or swelling of the periorbital muscles. Upon investigation nothing was found but the damage had been done. The optic nerve in the left eye had become very pale looking and was seriously injured, resulting in very little vision. As well as the destruction of the optic nerve, Jenny's left eye suffered third nerve palsy
which there was some recovery from. After the swelling went down in the left eye, it remained bulgier than the right, the eyelid was lower,and the eyeball pointed down and outward (a result of the third nerve palsy). Nothing could be done to help the situation. Jenny's right eye lost some sight and some more after her surgery in 1985. The optic nerve in her right eye showed some damage, and to add a bit more, she was identified as being red-green colour blind.
Jenny remained under the care of ophthalmologists and over the years her right eye has remained fairly stable. Her corrected vision (with her glasses on) in her right eye is 6/9. She only sees light and shade out of part of her left eye. As she has grown older like everybody Jenny has lost her close vision so wears multifocals. and carries a magnifying glass with her for the very small writing. With only having one good eye she has no depth perception and cannot see 3D.
Now if this was all her vision issues were, she would actually be okay as many people with one good eye drive, but her operations had another complication which wasn't identified until she was in her teenage years and could perform a field test
. A vision field test is a procedure where you sit at a machine and click on lights that flash in front of your eyes, and the print out shows your field vision or your peripheral vision. Jenny didn't have enough sight in her left eye to do the test. In her right eye the field vision test came out as poor and she was diagnosed has having a condition called haemonopoia.
Hemianopia is similar to tunnel vision where you see as if you were looking into a tube, but in hemianopia you only see a semi-circle, so out of half of the eye. And the half that jenny does not see, is her left side, her legally blind side. This diagram shows in a simple way how Jenny sees - she only sees the world through the right side of her right eye.
As you could imagine, this creates some issues for Jenny from tripping over things, bumping into things and people, and not seeing people or objects that come up from her left side. She also can't see up if she looks down, and she is looking down, she can't see what is up. Jenny recalls the severe accident she had as a thirteen-year-old on her bike when she was zooming over the rail bridge in her town and was flying down the over side. She didn't turn her head to the left like she normally did and thus didn't see the car that was pulling out from the side street. When the car came into her field of vision it was too late to swerve around the back of it and she plowed into the back door. To make matters worse the driver swore at her and didn't help her. A hard lesson learnt for her that she must turn her head.
which is a hereditary eye condition is also generational in Jenny's family. It is detected by high pressure in the eye and if left untreated causes the peripheral vision to deteriorate. As a teenager Jenny went on preventative drops as her pressures were borderline high. She went off them when she was trying for a family as they can cause birth defects and resumed the drops at the age of 51 as they were higher than they should b
Jenny can't remember being offered any particular help for her eyes, except for the visually impaired teacher seeing her at school, visiting Narbethong the visually impaired school, sitting up the front of the classroom, having stands to bring her work closer up to her eyes and binoculars. Jenny always wanted to fit in so probably wouldn't have used anything like a cane as she would have stood out. She hated wearing her glasses as she was called four eyes. This was on top of the other cruel names she was called because of her bulgy eyes. Because her vision was what she lived with, and she didn't know any different, over the years Jenny developed strategies to help her, from having very good listening and memory skills, to copying off her neighbour, to pretending she could see things she couldn't. She could not read menu boards at takeaway places, so ordered the same thing each time. Recognising people from a distance was always an issue and she would be seen to snob people, or she would sometimes wave at people who she thought she knew but didn't. She couldn't see through car windscreens and she would sometimes open strangers' doors thinking they were her friends pulling over to pick her up on the way to school. Jenny's eyes would also play tricks on her. Things she thought she was seeing were not what they actually were. In the classroom Jenny kept the layout the same, she used her hearing more and when on playground duty would walk alot so she could see what the students were doing. She told the principal and other teachers that if she did not acknowledge them, then they needed to speak or cough. She never told her students how severe her vision impairment was, becas
Jenny has always been dependent on people... her parents, her friends, her husband, her colleagues. In the early days when she tried to be independent she rode her bike, walked or caught trains. In the last couple of years her husband has been unwell and Jenny has been going further afield on her own. With her writing and speaking she has also been venturing to new places. Her lack of peripheral vision has become an issue has she's had some scares and falls, and her anxiety levels have been heightened. She made a decision to find out if she was eligible for a white cane, in the hope that people will give her distance, she doesn't have to apologise so regularly or bumping into people, and her trips and falls will lessen because she will be warned of obstacles and curbs etc. And if she asks for help, people will understand why she is asking e.g. to read menu boards.
Jenny is currently in the process of having her training. She is looking forward to taking her cane out in public but also is feeling a little timid. It is a psychological barrier she has to work through. With the cane she will stand out again. But it is either standing out or continuing as she is, and she is tired of the current situation.